Hugh McAtear

The media often resorts to meteorological analogies to describe the state of the airshow industry, turning to phrases like "clear skies above" in good times, and "dark clouds on the horizon" in anticipation of tougher times to come.

So an appropriate question to Jimmy Lau, managing director of Asian Aerospace, the show organiser, would seem to be "What's the weather forecast for Asian Aerospace 2000?"

"We're expecting sunny days, both figuratively and literally," says Lau, making dual reference to an upbeat response to the first airshow of the millennium and that fact it is held at the tail end of the traditional tropical rainy season.

Singapore has not only survived but grown because of its strategic role as a one-stop shop for companies involved or interested in the Asia Pacific market. Most of them take a long-term view of business opportunities in this region, says Lau.

Bad weather

"We managed to generate a healthy response from the industry at the 1998 show, despite the prevailing 'bad weather' in the Asian region. The economic situation did worsen in the following year, but we didn't have a show that year. Now we are back on the crest of a wave, to capitalise on a more optimistic business environment."

Growth doesn't just mean an increase in numbers and he is clearly not bothered if there are fewer exhibitors or visitors than in previous years, though the millennium event is set to be the biggest ever.

"I know it's a well-worn expression, but it's absolutely appropriate in our case - it's quality rather than quantity that counts."

Consequently the show organisers have been paying particular attention to attracting the key decision-makers to the Singapore show. Some 18,000 trade visitors are expected.

Inevitably the merger trend in the industry reduces the number of corporate entities in the market, but this does not necessarily translate into a reduction in participation at the show.

Major mergers

"What will be significant about this show is that it will give us all a chance to see the new shape of some of the major mergers. There will be a lot of new faces, new personnel on the ground, and it will be their first show within new corporate structures.

"We also have around 50 new-to-market companies taking part, including a number of the e-commerce businesses, so it will be interesting to see what impact they make in the market."

He also cites the staging of two major conferences in conjunction with the show as significant developments.

The high-profile Millennium Air Power Conference and an ICAO Special Directors General Asia-Pacific Conference have attracted a line-up of top military and civil aviation officials.

For future developments Lau reports that the planned move to a new purpose-built site will be moved from 2002 to 2004. "The site is on reclaimed land alongside what will be the third runway at Changi Airport and it has been decided that a longer period is needed for proper land settlement."

The new site is part of a 20-year commitment concluded by Asian Aerospace's joint venture partners Reed Exhibitions and Singapore Technologies Aerospace.

"The Singapore show is set to be a major fixture on the international aerospace calendar for a long time to come," says Lau.

As to his long-range weather forecast for the show in 20 years, he comments: "I hope I'll just be a visitor to the show by then."

Source: Flight Daily News